Sacramento Kings at Miami HEAT Game Preview

The Miami HEAT host the Sacramento Kings Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Kings 107-102 in their last meeting on Jan. 4 of last year. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1. What stood out to you the most in Monday night’s loss to the Rockets?

Joe Beguiristain: Outside of Hassan Whiteside’s superb first quarter, Derrick Jones Jr.’s defense on James Harden really impressed me. From start to finish, the 20-year-old answered the challenge and made things as tough as possible on the MVP candidate. In fact, the UNLV product forced Harden into two key misses on back-to-back possessions down the stretch in the fourth quarter. When it was all said and done, Jones Jr. helped hold Harden to just 10-of-26 shooting and led Miami with 15 shots contested and three blocks.  

All in all, the HEAT did all they could against one of the best teams in the league. Even without Goran Dragić and Tyler Johnson, Miami led by as many as 14 points and made Houston work for everything.

No excuses.

Alex Granado: Two things stood out to me from Monday's game:

First, that sweet defensive intensity with which Miami played throughout. The shorthanded HEAT, on the road, made Houston look downright pedestrian at times. It's worth pointing out that the Rockets have been held under 100 points only three other times this season (twice against Memphis in October, and once against Boston.) Houston is a well-oiled offensive machine when it gets into a smooth rhythm (as evidenced by its 112.4 OffRTG, second-best in the league behind Golden State) and the team certainly couldn't find that groove consistently against Miami. If not for some ill-timed turnovers late in the game and some tough, tough buckets from Harden and Chris Paul at the other end, we may be having a different conversation.

Second, for a team that's been scoring so many of its points out along the perimeter as of late (tied for 11th overall in 3P%,) the HEAT bullied Clint Capela & Company underneath the rim early and often. In fact, Miami outscored Houston 56-34 down low, including Whiteside's 22-point effort and a 5-of-7 game from James Johnson within five feet of the basket. 

2. How are the Kings different this season and how have they been playing?

Joe: The Kings made a bunch of moves over the offseason, as they signed Zach Randolph, George Hill and Vince Carter in free agency and acquired De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles in the draft. Despite all the additions, though, Sacramento has struggled mightily and currently ranks last in offensive efficiency (100.3) and defensive efficiency (110.1).

That said, stalwart Willie Cauley-Stein has been on an absolute tear of late, averaging 16.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game over his past seven outings. While the former Kentucky standout has continued to do the bulk of his work inside, he’s also added the mid-range jumper to his arsenal.

While the Kings have had a tough season, it must be good to see a player develop within the system like Cauley-Stein has. 

Alex: Oh, Sacramento.

Unfortunately for Kings fans, this season doesn't seem like it's shaping up very well. Sacramento is currently 14-33, having broken an eight-game losing streak Tuesday against Orlando. They appear to have a well-balanced attack with six players averaging double figures, including Buddy Hield and rookie Bogdan Bogdonović who can get hot from the perimeter. If those two can open up the court for the Kings with a few 3-balls, Randolph and Cauley-Stein (Sacramento's leading scorers) could do some damage down low.

Speaking of Kentucky standouts, I am very much looking forward to watching former teammates D'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo square off Thursday - their first head-to-head matchup as NBA professionals.

3. Are there any areas or matchups where Miami could have success Thursday night?

Joe: I think Miami could really lock down Sacramento if it sticks to its defensive principles. In addition to being last in offensive efficiency, the Kings are also ranked in the bottom third of the league in most advanced offensive metrics. To be fair, that’s expected with a franchise that is rebuilding.

Still, Miami will have to be ready for a battle inside if Randolph plays. Thanks to Z-Bo and Cauley-Stein, Sacramento averages the fifth-most post-ups in the NBA at 16.1 per game. Although the team doesn’t convert those looks at an efficient rate, it’s still something to take note of.

We’ll see how Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk fare against the Kings’ slew of bigs.

Alex: Miami likely returns to the perimeter focused attack we've grown accustomed to over the first half of the season, especially if Goran Dragić and Tyler Johnson are available Thursday night (both were upgraded to probable Wednesday.) The combination of Randolph and Cauley-Stein down low could clog things up offensively for the HEAT frontcourt. Whatever combination of Whiteside, JJ, Olynyk and Adebayo Coach Spoelstra uses will need to find a way to maneuver through the pair of Kings bigs and get buckets to keep the perimeter game open.

Oh, and jersey matchups. I expect #HEATVICE to win hands down.

INJURY UPDATE: Goran Dragić (left knee bruise) will warm up with intent to play. Tyler Johnson (left ankle sprain) went through Thursday's shootaround, but will not play.

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Highlights:

Jan. 4, 2017 – HEAT at Kings

Game Notes

  • The HEAT have won nine of twelve and are 27-20.
  • The Kings have dropped eight of nine and enter the contest at 14-33.
  • Josh Richardson leads Miami with 1.3 steals per game.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein leads Sacramento in rebounds (6.8), steals (1.0) and blocks (0.9) per game.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 103.6 (22)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.8 (11)
  • Kings Offense: 100.3 (30)
  • Kings Defense: 110.1 (30)